Today the Government shared plans to introduce and pilot a new mental health workforce in schools. These plans follow on from the green paper consultation ‘Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health’, which Centre for Mental Health responded to and fed into.  

We welcome the Government’s plan strengthening the focus on mental health in schools and in higher education, but there is still a long way to go before all children get the timely support they need to thrive.

The plans commit to a new NHS mental health workforce which will be piloted in key Trailblazer sites. These teams will be dedicated to supporting children and young people in schools and colleges. They will work in partnership with newly established designated senior leads for mental health who will be introduced into educational settings to help develop whole school/college approaches to supporting children and young people’s mental health. The Department for Education have also announced plans to build on existing PSHE provision helping schools strengthen teaching on good physical and mental health, healthy relationships and safety promoting children and young people’s resilience.

We welcome the Government’s plan strengthening the focus on mental health in schools and in higher education, but there is still a long way to go before all children get the timely support they need to thrive.

The Government hopes that having extra support for children and young people’s mental health will help schools create a culture where early signs of distress are picked up more effectively preventing mental health crises, distress and disruption to students’ progress and life chances. For those who become unwell, Government plans seek to make it easier for school staff to navigate children and young people toward the help they need. We welcome plans to extend developments to higher education settings with pilots planned in seven universities, colleges and training centres.

As part of the plan announced today, the Government will also commit to pilot a four-week mental health waiting time limit for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for those who are unwell and in need of specialist mental health support. We will be closely following the progress and implementation of these pilots.

These are all promising steps forward. But important issues remain unaddressed. For example, we know that children from the poorest 20% of households are four times more likely to have a mental health condition than those from the wealthiest 20%. And such inequalities increase the chances of children developing early starting behavioural problems which is our most common and costly childhood mental health difficulty, and the one which can be most damaging to a child’s life chances. We also know that physical, mental health, social and educational inequalities emerge early in life, pointing to the critical importance of effective early years and family support – particularly for those exposed to greater adversity. We need more investment in earlier intervention and strength-based family support – particularly addressing social inequalities which drive poor child mental health. And for some older, more vulnerable young people, we also need a mental health support offer which is more outreaching, youth work and goal orientated rather than clinical in its feel.

We hope that NHS England’s long-plan will go some way toward addressing these key omissions. We also now look forward, following many Government reviews raising similar themes, to the swift implementation of this plan. 

Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said:

"Schools and colleges have critical opportunities to promote children and young people’s resilience. They can do this through creating a whole school culture that attends to both student and staff mental health, through the relationships staff build with students and through PSHE and broader curriculum teaching. We therefore welcome Government plans to build on and strengthen the PSHE curriculum.

Today’s announcement is a positive step forward, but the significant scale of the gap between those who are unwell and those who get help remains very concerning.

"School staff also have important opportunities to identify when a child or young person is struggling and needs help - either to prevent poor mental health or to get early help when they are unwell. However, they can often be trying to do these things on top of core teaching activities, unsupported and without the ability to secure the right help at the right time. We therefore value proposed investment in schools and colleges to establish mental health leads and to train and introduce a supportive mental health workforce who will work in partnership as part of a whole school or college approach. It is, however, important that this investment sits on a solid foundation of effective early years and family support to address well documented inequalities that drive poor child mental health.

"Today’s announcement is a positive step forward, but the significant scale of the gap between those who are unwell and those who get help remains very concerning. We know that early identification and good quality support can reduce the distress and damage faced by children and young people, help them thrive and achieve in education and in life, and can save costs in the longer term impacting on a range of local budgets."


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